Good morning, lovely ones! As a plus-sized seamstress, I heavily rely on tried-and-true patterns for my projects. After I’ve fit a certain bodice to high heaven, it seems silly to just make it once. Once you have a few well-tailored base patterns, like a two dart bodice or princess-seamed sheath dress, almost any design is in your reach. All that fitting work can be put into dozens of projects, with simple pattern changes.
Today, I’m sharing one of my absolute favorite TNT patterns: Simplicity 1873. Since its release in 2012, this Cynthia Rowley pattern has made its appearance in my wardrobe over a dozen times. I’ve made it as-designed, I’ve changed the neckline, and I’ve paired it with many, many different skirts. This little beauty was made to be pattern hacked!
As designed, Simplicity 1873 is a classic fit-and-flare party dress. The bodice has both a waist dart and a bust dart, which is good news for large busts, and is paired with a liberally pleated circle skirt. There are two included neckline variations, the jewel neck of View A and the lower scoop of View B, as well as optional puff sleeves. The only piece I haven’t personally made is the simple, box blazer which accompanies the dress. It’s cute, but I bought this baby for that swishy dress!
Sizing-wise, this pattern is a typical Big 4 0ffering. It goes up to a 22, which translates to measurements of 44-37-46 or a 16/18 ready-to-wear dress size. My own measurements, 46-34-46, meant I needed a few simple alterations to make this pattern work for me. Since the skirt is a wide, roomy circle skirt, I focused my efforts on the bodice. To get the best fit possible, I made a 2-inch FBA on the Size 20 bodice, then took a 1/2 inch out of each shoulder, and paired with the straight Size 20 skirt. Easy as pie!
While I have made 1873 in the envelope’s suggested brocade, this pattern is shown to best effect in fabrics with a nice drape. Both of the versions above were made in high quality quilting cottons, while the one below is in fully lined cotton eyelet. The pleats lay down beautifully in drapey fabrics like these, which provides lovely waist definition for the curvy figure. If you live in a sweltering climate like my own, I also recommend subbing out the bodice lining for a clean, bias tape finish. An unlined 1873 makes the perfect summer sundress: cool and swishy, but with an elegant silhouette.
The 1873’s construction can be a bit laborious, with all those pleats, but I’ve found it worth the effort. Just make sure to mark those pleat lines really well and be forgiving of slight discrepancies that may arise, due to cutting errors. With five skirt panels, they can happen to even the most careful of seamstresses! The key to a heavily pleated pattern is knowing that it’s okay to take them in here or there, as needed. If it looks symmetrical to the naked eye, no one has to know!
As mentioned, this pattern has become a tried-and-true for me, thanks to its versatility. The bodice is an ideal base for all sorts of looks! With a little attention to dart or pleat placement, it’s super easy to swap out the complicated skirt of 1873 for an easier option. For both of the dresses below, I paired the jewel neckline of View A with a simple, pleated dirndl skirt. It made for a similar silhouette, but quicker sewing time, than the original design. Even easier would be pairing 1873’s bodice with a gathered skirt, for the ultimate sundress look.
Other bloggers have also had great success turning this bodice into a blouse, as with this gorgeous peplum top from Adventures in Dressmaking. Or for a fun twist on separates, two different fabrics can be used for the top and bodice, like Adrienne’s fabulous paint-splattered version.
There are so many possibilities for this dress! I can’t recommend it enough to other curvy seamstresses looking for a simple bodice to embellish and change, as whim demands.
TNT Pattern Details:
Sizing: 6-22, on a typical Big 4 scale
What size did you make? 20 with alterations for 46-34-46 measurements
What adjustments did you make? 2-inch FBA and sway back adjustments
Fabric and Notions required: 3.5 yards of fabric and a 22-inch zipper
Curvy Rating (1-5): This pattern gets an enthusiastic 4! It’s a gorgeous dress, but many curvy seamstresses would need to grade the pattern up or do bust adjustments. Plus, the heavily pleated skirt makes this relatively simple silhouette a time-consuming project. Since it’s such an easy pattern to change, based on design preference, it really is worth the fitting effort.